Thai Airport Smuggler Busted with Baby Leopards, Panthers
The man was waiting to check in at Suvarnabhumi International Airport for a flight to Dubai when he was apprehended by undercover anti-trafficking officers. Officers had been monitoring him since he made the black market purchase of the animals.
The 36-year-old has not been identified, only that he was a citizen of the United Arab Emirates.
Inside his luggage were two leopards, two panthers, two macaque monkeys and an Asiatic black bear.
The animals, all about the size of puppies, had been drugged and placed in flat cages or canisters with air holes.
"It was a very sophisticated smuggling operation. We've never seen one like this before," Steven Galster, director of anti-trafficking group FREELAND Foundation, told the Associated Press. "The guy had a virtual zoo in his suitcases."
Leopards and panthers can go for around $5,000 on the black market in Thailand. But, they likely would have sold for more in Dubai.
"He was not a normal smuggler," said Galster in an AP video. "He was checked into first class, seems to have some special connections and has already been released on bail."
It is unknown whether the animals were destined to be sold or kept as exotic pets.
Thailand is a popular location for wildlife smuggling. Typically it involves tortoises, rare turtles, snakes and lizards bound for Vietnam and China.
Just last February a man was arrested at the same airport with bags full of illegal animals. Last August a baby tiger cub was found among stuffed animals in a suitcase. In July 2010, a man was caught trying to smuggle monkeys in his clothes at the Mexico City airport.
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